Fish and livelihoods poisoned by South African chemical spill


No sooner had the looting stopped than fisherman Bobby Pillay gathered up his rod and bait, desperate to venture out of hiding and get back to the South African seafront.

What he found was devastation.

The beach glistened with poisoned fish, hundreds of them lying inert on the wet sand, slick with chemicals.

“I have never seen a thing like this,” said 76-year-old Pillay from his home in Phoenix, a town north of central Durban that was badly hit by July’s riots.

“This is devastating for us, on top of lockdown, this just adds fuel to the fire,” he said, holding up a local news clipping about the spill.

The cull came after looters – believed to have been spurred on by the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma – set fire to a warehouse owned by India’s UPL Ltd. It took more than a week to control the blaze and stem the slew of chemicals that ran off from the firefighting into nearby uMhlanga estuary. 

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 ~sThomson Reuters Foundation, 19 August 2021